Saturday saw Olivet Nazarene University’s basketball teams play host to their Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) rival, the University of Saint Francis (USF) Fighting Saints. While the Lady Tigers were able to win 94-84 despite a second half run by USF, Olivet’s men fell 71-67 in a game that went down to the wire.
It was a highly-anticipated game for the women as it was a matchup of two top-20-ranked National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) division 2 teams, the No. 20 ranked Tigers and the No. 7 ranked Fighting Saints. After a fairly even first quarter, ONU blew the gates off the door and took a 51-30 lead going into halftime behind the strong scoring of Junior Jess Learned and Senior Maggie Schmidt who had 15 and 10 points in the first half, respectively
The second half saw a stronger performance from USF. The Fighting Saints outscored the tigers in both the third and fourth quarters behind the stellar performances of Junior Nichole Davidson who had 23 points in the second half and Senior Kamari Jordan with 10 points and 6 assists in the same period. At one point, the Fighting Saints went on a 15-3 run to cut the lead to seven points. However, three turnovers in a row by USF, a pair of made free throws by ONU Sophomore Sammy Stejskal, and a layup by Schmidt sealed the win for Olivet. It was the Lady Tigers’ eighth win in a row and their third win against a top-25 ranked opponent.
“It definitely helped that we had a good first half and built that lead,” women’s Head Coach Lauren Stamatis said. “We definitely struggled in the second half. We struggled to put defensive pressure on them. We fouled a lot. We were not rebounding. Just some challenges that they capitalized on really well, that helped them to edge back into it. … We were able to maintain composure even though we weren’t really in an attacking mindset. I think that was huge. We were able to take some steps mentally to maintain some composure.”
The men’s game was similarly close in the first half, USF maintaining the lead for almost all of the first period. But the Tigers kept the deficit in the single digits, only turning the ball over three times in the half and converting on six of their seven free throw attempts. ONU managed to tie up the score several times late in the period, and only trailed 29-28 at the end of the half.
The teams went back and forth at the start of the second half until ONU went on a 13-0 run led by a couple of buckets each by Freshman John Constant and Sophomore Nic Reed. However from there the Fighting Saints would take over behind the 20 combined points from junior Antonio Hughes and senior Iain Morison. USF would tie the score with a little over four minutes left in the game and take a five-point lead with one minute and 50 seconds left. But Olivet would tie the score once again behind a jumper from Junior Josiah Blan and a three-point play from Reed. USF would score on a layup and ONU missed a contested three-pointer. From there ONU kept fouling to stop the clock, and USF would convert on all of their free throw attempts to hold on and get the win.
“An 11-point lead (with almost 12 minutes left) and we did nothing on the defensive end,” men’s Head Coach Ralph Hodge said. “We struggled all day offensively getting any continuity against their zone. But
we built an 11-point lead by grinding through and playing some defense. And from that point on we just did not get loose balls. We didn’t rebound. And we turned the ball over in critical situation. That equals a loss and that’s what we got.”
The loss moves the ONU men’s team to a 4-7 record and snaps a two game win streak.